The Exaltation of the Holy Cross I (Pope St Leo the Great)

When Christ is lifted upon the Cross, dearly beloved, let not that sight be before your eyes that was before the eyes of the wicked, of which it was said through Moses: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life.  For in the crucified Lord they were able to find nothing but their own wickedness, and they feared greatly, not with that fear which cometh by true faith, but with that fear with which an evil conscience is tormented.

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But our understanding, which is enlightened by the spirit of truth, discerns with a pure and open heart the glory of the Cross as it shines upon heaven and earth; and it perceives with an inward glance what our Lord meant, when, as his Passion was drawing near, he said: Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.  O wondrous power of the Cross!  O ineffable glory of the Passion, wherein is the judgement-seat of the Lord, the judgement of the world, and the power of the Crucified!  Lord, thou didst draw all things unto thyself, and when all day long thou didst spread forth thy hands unto a disobedient and gain-saying people, the who world saw that thy majesty was to be acknowledged.

Lord, thou didst draw all things unto thyself, when, in abhorrence of the Jews’ crime, all the elements passed sentence: when the light of heaven was darkened, and day was turned into night, when the earth was moved, and all creation refused to serve the wicked.  Lord, thou didst draw all things unto thyself, for the veil of the temple was rent, the Holy of Holies recoiled from unworthy priests; that the type might be changed into the reality, prophecy into manifestation, and the Law into the Gospel.

Lord, thou didst draw all things unto thyself, that what had been hidden in the one Jewish temple under shadows and symbols might be clearly and openly celebrated everywhere through the devout worship of all nations.  For now the order of Levites is more illustrious, and the honour of the elders is greater, and the anointing of priests is more sacred: because thy Cross is the fount of all blessings, the cause of all grace; through which is given to those that believe strength for weakness, glory for shame, life for death.  Moreover, the various carnal sacrifices have now come to an end, the one oblation of thy Body and Blood fulfils all forms of sacrifice: for thou art the Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world; and thus in thee all mysteries are consummated, that, as there is one sacrifice for many victims, so may there be one Kingdom for all nations.

- Pope St Leo the Great, Sermon 59: On the Lord’s Passion

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Paschalion A

In the ashen mist

we have gone out.

In the dampness

of a restless day

that shudders into life.

 

Amidst the dew

and dimness

of the morning light,

that skirts, that curtsies,

to our beleaguered sight,

the rising sun precludes

all that is dim

and that which hears not glory

falters, fails and fades upon the eye.

 

That dew,

that soft, damp,

odour of silent waiting

is all burned up

and joins again

its own intended stay.

 

The stone

which before the

door of night

secured the death

of him whose brightness

death cannot contend,

is moved away,

thrown,

rolled,

and stirred up;

and cast up

in glorious revelry.

Light,

bright radiance

of the unconquered Sun,

comes forth.

He night dispels and

in his brightness all

that is gives way:

by of itself becoming,

like to like,

which in its likeness to

the Light of All

grows ever more itself

as ever all

turns from radiant thing

to radiance Himself.

 

Morning has come and

with light brimming,

overshadowed with it,

we run to seek Peter.

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To the Beloved I

My beloved has gone

down to his garden,

in light

in splendour.

The blooms of

roses

raise their heads

to him.

The crowns

of their joy

red as blood,

as the blood

he sheds

once for all.

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Easter Morning at a Village Church

The yellow plate of the sun

is hidden behind clouds.

A misty, hilly, morning; ghosts of memory lie

in valleys, on hedgerows.

Dew falls in blue grass.

 

The promise is of steaming tea

and hot brown buns and butter.

Before that, the blaring vox humana, tremulant

in the 8’, or some paltry diapasons and reeds.

The white smell of lilies.

 

Now all this ordinariness

floods into the marvellous.

Here are the old women, batty in their best hats,

revealed as holy things.

 

There is no sitting in the pew

but on the stone, or some bear spices.

They raise their eyes, their voices, their tight-curled

shampoos-and-sets, to heaven

mouths awake with song.

 

And as for me? I consider myself

as rich as a linden tree in June.

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The Espirito Santo

Red sky and tall ship.

Barquentine riggings cobweb

on slender mast.

 

Dark hull on maudlin sea,

haunts against the current

up the narrow bay.

 

Shades fall in carrion dust

from bodies bound hand and foot

in iron, heavy, grey.

 

Many faces line like headstones,

cluttered on the brow of broken dawn,

above the bulwark.

 

Behind the rail, or bars,

they wait to disembark in herds

beneath the whip.

 

 

Another Holy Ghost

lit once on unbound waters;

before men made slaves.

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Man of Steel – A sort of review

Watching Man of Steel is a bit like getting into the head of a computer game obsessed teenager, and, unfortunately, just as disjointed.  It isn’t only that chunks of the Smallville back-story are told in flashbacks, but the narrative structure of the film as a whole is difficult.  I had the impression that I was watching a series of scenes of flashes from a much larger story; a story that could have been told if so much time hadn’t been wasted on grandstanding scenes which added little to film as a whole.  In the end, the movie is intensely uneven, to the point of being incoherent.

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It is unfortunate that, although Henry Cavill has developed a remarkable physique specifically for the role, and that he has a gentle, understated voice and a fine and beautiful face (in some contrast to his large shoulders and chest), his Superman is almost totally unsympathetic.  I don’t think it is the acting that’s at particular fault here: rather the structure of the story and the characterisation works in such a way as to make Kal-El, well, a bit of whinger.  This is particularly true in the flashback scenes, where the relationship between Clark Kent and his adoptive parents is portrayed as strained, uncomfortable; Clark reminds one of an unhappy teenager placed in an inadequate foster home with unsuitable guardians.  This is hardly the image of the Kent home or Superman’s adolescence we’re used to, and it is certainly not an improvement.  It isn’t more ‘realistic’ (this is a film about a man who can fly), because the moral virtues so important to Superman could hardly be fostered in such an environment.  And one scene in particular, the death of Jonathan Kent (never have I been so pleased to see him go), was ridiculous.  Smallville spent ten years showing us how Kal-El could remain an anonymous hero.  And then we could compare Cavill with Brandon Routh, the other actor to have portrayed Superman in modern times, who was unduly maligned, but in fact created the three aspects of the character with relaxed aplomb and humour.  Cavill is exciting, troubled, masculine; but Routh was a joy.

In any case Man of Steel suffers most from overdose, the Peter Jacksonisation of film making where everything that is bigger, louder, longer, faster, ‘funnier’, is also better.  It is a sad fact that many modern films have the Peter Jackson disease, and Man of Steel is not an exception.  There are at least 40 minutes of non-stop flying and fighting, during which dozens of Metropolitan sky-scrapers are levelled to the ground and presumably hundreds of thousands of people killed.  It is all too much.  And nothing in the whole film matches the excitement of the plane-rescue in Superman Returns and its attendant humour.  In Man of Steel, the attempts at humour are cringe rather than laughter inducing.

There are, of course, some things to praise too.  I have already mentioned Henry Cavill.  And I rather liked Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, though she is a bit flat.   The muted colours work nicely in the flashbacks, and some of the set-imagines remain for a long time in the mind.

But overall, for me, the film was a grave disappointment.  It was especially difficult to swallow as I’d watched Star Trek: Into Darkness just a week or so before Man of Steel.  The former was a revelation (I didn’t enjoy J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek outing all that much), and I wasn’t looking forward to it.  The latter, though I have been looking forward to it for years, was way under my expectations.  At any rate, if I had to choose which one to return to on blu-ray, I wouldn’t have much difficulty; though, chances are, I’ll end up with them both on my shelf…

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The Reliquary

in her painted palm remains;

her own memento.

 

Bound by silk,

sealed in blushing wax.

 

White bone in gold:

grace beneath glass.

 

Gazes, kisses

and Latin letters lovingly declare

a holy thing

in a little space.

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